ASK TORY: What Are Your Thoughts on Branding Advertising?

Tory Hornsby | 05/25/2016

Many years ago, I heard a quote by Dan Kennedy, who is the direct marketing guru I often mention, and it’s really stuck to my ribs. He said, “Branding is for cattle.”


I advise against a dealer spending their hard-earned dollars on marketing that’s purely designed to ‘build their brand’ or ‘get their name out there.’  I’m a dealer advocate at heart, and quite frankly, branding is a waste of money. 


Don’t mistake having a ‘brand’ with ‘branding advertising.’ Having and building a ‘brand’ isn’t a bad thing, I’m not against that at all. In fact, here at Powersports Marketing we’re building a brand with our company name, our Sharp Shooter program, and our Local Web Dominator program. You’ll never see us, however, spending a single penny on branding style of advertising. In other words, I want all dealers to know who Powersports Marketing is, and what our Sharp Shooter and Local Web Dominator programs are all about, but every dollar I spend will have a call-to-action with a reason to respond.


When you focus your advertising on brand building, you should know that it cannot be, and never will be accurately quantified, so you can’t hold it accountable. 


Branding advertising is usually associated with mass media like TV, radio, billboards and newspapers. Mass media sales reps have to build value somehow, so they focus on branding so you won’t know if it’s working or not, and subsequently you’ll keep on doing it. There are 2 big reasons dealers do mass media: 

Number 1 is Marketing Incest - Dealers copy other dealers assuming it’s working for their competitor, so it must be the right thing to do. This often leads to the advertising getting dumber and dumber as they copy each other, hence the ‘Incest’.  :) 


Number 2 is Pride & Ego - It feels good to hear your commercial on the radio, see your dealership on TV, drive past your billboard, etc.  Did you know that the people most likely to hear/see/notice you on mass media are you and your staff members?  You hear your radio spot, but you probably couldn’t tell me the commercial that aired before or after it. Radio commercials don’t typically sway what you personally buy. Yet, dealers keep doing it because it feels good. It’s a faux security blanket that dealers think is always on. It’s not, and when your commercial plays most folks miss it.  


Instead of wasting money by going after the masses (when only 3% to 6% of people ride/buy powersports), you CAN create a name-brand identity and recognition for your dealership as a happy byproduct of Direct Response marketing that actually generates leads & sales every time you do it. 


Focus your advertising where it counts. For instance, we build a carefully selected audience group that we call a dealership’s Buying Base. It’s made up two groups: 


1) past customers



2)conquest riders who live in a dealership’s backyard, but have never done business with them.  


This group (Buying Base) is where the majority of a dealer’s sales will come from over the next 12 months. It also narrows the field down to a size  that you impact with the resources you have.  A giant market is only useful to someone with a giant wallet. Don’t try to make a difference by peeing into the ocean. 


A brand (or brand identity) is simply a recognized symbol that represents and reminds people of ‘what’ you and your dealership are all about. But, don’t overlook the fact that it should also resonate with ‘who’ your business is for. 


The ‘who’ is two-fold… you have to know who to market to, but you also need to let them know who you are. Personal branding is far superior to a corporate style of branding. People prefer dealing with people rather than nameless & faceless institutions. You have to put yourself out there!


Again, there’s nothing wrong with creating a name-brand identity and recognition for yourself and your business. Just be sure you’re doing it as a byproduct and bonus of solid, accountable, profitable Direct Response advertising.  Do NOT buy ‘branding’ outright with image enhancing advertising. 


For more information on Direct Response advertising, building your buying base, or all-things marketing call 1-877-242-4472 and ask for me. 


- Tory